The power of 10

You’ve trained solidly, practised your race pace, had an early night and a good, tried-and-trusted breakfast… Follow these 10 top tips to guarantee great results on Race Day

1. Arrive Early

Racing is meant to be enjoyable. Tough, perhaps, but enjoyable. So don’t stress yourself by arriving late on Race Day. Aim to turn up at least an hour before the race start time (10:00 on Monday 30 May) so you have plenty of time to get your bearings, find the baggage tents, use the loo and find out any last-minute details about the course, the Drinks Stations and so on. Rushing is a waste of valuable energy, and missing the start gun wastes all the valuable training you’ve done for the race. 

2. Stick with what’s familiar

Everything about your Vitality London 10,000 race experience should be as controlled as possible. An important event isn’t the time for experiments. 

Make sure that the shoes you’ll be racing in are comfortably worn in – the same goes for the top you plan to wear and your shorts and socks. Eat a familiar breakfast that you know you can run on, and if you’re not sure about how early to eat it, do your experimenting well before Race Day (most runners eat two to three hours before racing). 

Out on the course, you’ll have two opportunities to grab a bottle of Buxton Natural Mineral Water (at roughly 3km and 6.5km) but if energy drinks play a part in your race plan, you’ll need to carry your own.

3. Focus your mind

Prepare your mind to race. Clear your mind of bills, bank statements and other worries. During your training you should form a routine that prepares you to run; it could be stretching, sitting quietly or even chanting a mantra. 

Do exactly the same prior to the race. Then have a moment of quiet and assess precisely what you want to achieve at the Vitality London 10,000 – how you want to start off, and what pace you want to run. Be scientific with these thoughts. 

Do not take too long, otherwise negative thoughts may creep in. Then calmly walk to your start zone.

4. Start slowly 

At the start, position yourself in the correct start zone to ensure you start with runners who will run a similar pace to you. 

Remember, your IPICO Sports Tag will not start recording your time until you cross the timing mats on the Start Line, so you don’t need to worry about surging forward as soon as the gun goes off. 

At the gun, start moving as soon as you are able, flowing with the crowd until you can establish your own pace. Keep your hands up to maintain balance, keep your feet low to avoid tripping. Try to resist the urge to sprint off at the start – it is easy to ruin a race by sprinting for the first 200 metres.

5. Picture Your Perfect Race

When imagining your perfect race, try to use all of your senses and give your images plenty of detail,” says sports psychologist Dr Victor Thompson (www.sportspsychologist.co.uk).

“Close your eyes and imagine what you will see; hear; smell; be conscious of external factors – the wind, rain, heat; experience emotionally – excitement, nerves, happiness, and feel physically – your feet hitting the ground, your breathing. It’s easy to visualise everything perfectly, but it’s important to visualise several scenarios. 

“The first is, indeed, your perfect race. See yourself running well: fast, confident and relaxed. Imagine yourself following your race plan to the letter and experiencing the joy that comes with a job very well done. Sadly, of course, this rarely happens so make sure that you take time to think dark thoughts: picture yourself starting too quickly, or too slowly. Visualise another runner clipping your heel or that niggling injury coming back at halfway. 

“Run through a frenzied wasp attack that ends with you falling into a pond and losing your shorts. Think of the worst-case scenarios and picture the ideal way to deal with them. Doing this will ensure that if they happen on Race Day, you’ll have a plan to draw on instantly – allowing you to bounce back quickly and carry on.”

6. Run an even race 

There are several ways to pace yourself in a race, but the method considered most effective is running at an even speed throughout. If, for example, you are aiming to complete the 10km in an hour, the first few miles at six-minutes per kilometre pace might seem like a warm-up, but you should resist the temptation to speed up. 

Work out how fast you should be covering each kilometre and use a stopwatch during the race to make sure your pacing is on track. It can be worth aiming a little bit inside your target time when you calculate your pace plan – the only trouble with even pacing is that it doesn’t allow you to build a cushion of time, so a lack of concentration can quickly put you behind your race pace.

7. Consider a negative split

Another pacing method is to start the race slowly, gradually increase your speed and finish fast. Many runners run better when they can get warmed up first with an easier pace, and pick up confidence as they start to overtake runners after a few miles.

8. Accelerate late

You’re feeling good, you’re running briskly but within your limits – so when should you put the pedal to the metal? In the Vitality London 10,000, wait until you’ve covered eight kilometres before hitting the accelerator, or seven if you are feeling good. 

If you go on to race longer distances, in a half marathon you can gradually step up your speed after eight miles or so. In a marathon, wait until the last two or three miles. If the race feels tough throughout, save your surge for the final 800m to 1,200m – a short enough distance for a little mental toughness to be able to help you deal with a lake of lactic acid in your leg muscles. 

9. Learn from poor performances as well as good ones

You may train and plan to have the race of your life on Monday 30 May but sometimes it’s just not your day. If you do have a disaster, don’t dwell on it. Give yourself an hour to be upset, but during that time try to analyse what went wrong. Afterwards, consult your training log to see if it holds an explanation. A break of two days may provide good reflection and the rest you need. Reconsider your goals – would a race of a different length suit you better? 

Whatever the reason, a bad race is not the end of the world. Cheer up and look ahead: there will be plenty of chances for redemption in the future.

10. Set a new goal

It’s common to feel a sense of anti-climax after a big race but you can counter this by setting yourself a new sporting challenge – anything from signing up for another running race to tackling a cycling event like the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 46 on Sunday 31 July or the Swim Serpentine one-mile swim on Saturday 24 September.

Whatever event you choose as your next challenge, best of luck and we hope to see you back at the Vitality London 10,000 in 2017.